The Alan Parsons Project: Eye In the Sky 35th Anniversary Collector's Edition

It’s quite fitting that when Alan Parsons—the well-respected English producer and engineer whose enviable behind-the-board C.V. includes the likes of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Hollies, Al Stewart, Pilot, and Ambrosia—finally ventured out on his own as a titular recording artist in the mid-’70s, his collective work was dubbed The Alan Parsons Project.

Actually, using his as the possessive pronoun there is somewhat of a misnomer, as The Alan Parsons Project was really defined as a push-pull partnership between Parsons (above left) and Scottish songwriter Eric Woolfson. The APP became the collective’s name mainly because Parsons’ résumé carried quite a fair amount of pre-existing weight, but the group’s overall sonic presentation was most definitely born on a two-way street.

One of the defining tenets of the APP was how shrewdly Parsons and Woolfson (who passed away in December 2009) were able to cast such a wide net in stocking themselves with a truly deep bench of high-caliber golden-throated vocalists whom they could cull from at will for whatever mood a song required.


The pinnacle of the APP pyramid came a half-dozen theme-oriented albums into the partnership with 1982’s Eye in the Sky, an almost perfect intersection of Parsons’ progressive production leanings and Woolfson’s mid-road pop sensibilities, not to mention their penchant for capturing the sense of paranoia surrounding the ideas of clandestine surveillance and reverence for religious-deity oversight. The ever-sparkling title track, as sung by Woolfson, has long since become the most popular track in the APP canon. Some, however, may argue the album’s lead track, the uplifting, riff-driven instrumental “Sirius,” is even better known given its international sports-arena ubiquity—most notably stateside via the Michael Jordan–era Chicago Bulls—but I cosmically digress.

Either way, the quite prescient Eye is now getting its proper due with a mondo 35th anniversary special edition box set, consisting of three CDs, one Blu-ray, two half-speed-mastered LPs at 45 rpm, a replica of an of-era promo flexidisc, and an extensive 60-page hardback book among its supremely rich contents.

Disc 1 holds six additional cuts, while Disc 2 is a 47-minute peek behind the curtain of Woolfson’s songwriting process, as chosen by his family members. They’re all wise choices indeed, especially the first four “songwriting diaries” chronicling the evolution of the title track. It’s truly fascinating to hear Woolfson behind the piano and building lyrics around his repetition of the key phrase “I can read your mind,” humming the ensuing melody and filling in the lyrical blanks as he goes forward.

Disc 3 is chock-full of aurally mesmerizing bonus tracks and single edits. I’m most enamored with the 12-string acoustic version of “Children of the Moon” (which also features a dramatic, 28-second marching-band-style snare-drum break carrying the song to the fadeout); the isolated, swelling orchestral snippet of “Psychobabble” that would do Bernard Herrmann proud; and Chris Rainbow’s stacked, Beach Boys–esque harmony break on a shelved vocal idea for “Old and Wise.” Once again, the depth of the material contained on this collection’s three CDs shows how Legacy keeps raising the bar for how historical box sets should be compiled and presented.


Naturally, our eyes (and ears) turn most excitedly to the 96-kHz/24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sur round mix done by Parsons on Blu-ray. Parsons has long been a proponent of surround sound, with latter-era solo albums such as 2001’s On Air and 2006’s A Valid Path each getting invigorating respective 5.1 treatment, as well as with the more recent 40th anniversary edition of the APP’s 1976 debut, Tales of Mystery and Imagination. (The breadth of Tales’ “A Dream Within a Dream/The Raven” is a personal favorite 5.1-mix sequence of mine.) Back in 2006, I asked Parsons about his 5.1 mixing philosophy and he said, “The consumer pays for six speakers, so he might as well hear them. And I have a firm belief the center channel has its roots in the cinema, not modern music.”

Parsons stays true to his 5.1 word here, with “Sirius” opening the proceedings in full-channel glory, its signature opening Fairlight-programmed synth lines in the front channels and swelling strings and throbbing guitar riffage carrying the load in the backline. Woolfson’s vocal/lyrical showcase, “Silence and I,” finds high drama thanks to an enveloping orchestral wash overseen by Andrew Powell, while the final track, “Old and Wise,” builds dramatically around Colin Blunstone’s full-life-lived, world-weary breathy vocals spread wide across the front stage and properly supported by Mel Collins’ outgoing sax solo and Powell’s full-on brass/orchestral support combo in the rears.

Here’s looking at you, Eye in the Sky. And I can read your mind, since we’re two of a kind, and I know we jointly project the next valid path for Parsons and company would hopefully be to fete the 40th anniversary of 1978’s Pyramid with the same amount of hands-on mulitrack-driven care.

CD, Blu-ray & LP
Label: Arista/Legacy
Audio Formats: 44.1-kHz/16-bit PCM Stereo (CD, LP & download), 192-kHz/24-bit LPCM Stereo (Blu-ray), 96-kHz/24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 & LPCM Surround (Blu-ray)
Number of Tracks: 86 (62 on 3 CDs, 10 on 1 Blu-ray, 10 on 2 LPs, 4 on 1 Flexidisc)
Length: 4:52:04 (3:10:52 on 2 CDs, 42:27 on 1 Blu-ray, 42:27 on 2 LPs, 16:18 on 1 Flexidisc)
Producers: Alan Parsons, Eric Woolfson (original album); Alan Parsons (5.1 mix); Alan Parsons, Sally Woolfson, Colin Rice, Darren Salmieri (box set)
Engineers: Alan Parsons, Tony Richards (original album); Dave Donnelly (bonus material mastering); Miles Showell (vinyl mastering)